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Old 10-15-2020, 01:50 PM
Jefe314159 Jefe314159 is offline
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Lightbulb Blend Three Sources?

I have a Lowden F-35 Pierre Bensusan Signature and am wanting to have pickups of some sort installed so I can get a tone closer to the tone of Tommy Emmanuel ballads and modern fingerstyle guitarists on their albums and on stage.

This is mainly for my own benefit as I practice with greater sustain and reverb, so feedback and other stage issues are less of a concern. Chances are my ideas are over the top, but I do want to lean in that direction to have as much control as possible over the end result. So I'm wanting to do more than just the most popular or a "close enough" approach.

I like three kinds of pickups and am not sure how to choose or blend between them. When I purchased the guitar, it had a Fishman rare earth blend in the case. I recently installed it temporarily in the sound hole and really saw the potential by using it with what gear I have - a value priced electric tube amp and some pedals. And I know it would sound a lot better with proper gear all around.

I like magnetics for how well they work with pedals and capture a wide range of frequencies. It does end up sounding a little sterile by itself though. Visually they aren't great but I don't think there's any way around that. Current frontrunner: DiMarzio Black Angel.

I like piezo somewhat, mainly for its high end which can really stand out and separate those notes from mids and bass but it doesn't sound great in the other frequencies from my limited experience. So I am basically ruling out UST but not SBT. I also don't want to mess with my saddle. I have read good things about the K&K Pure Mini, but not sure of its high end sizzle, so I'm still looking at other products too.

Lastly, I like internal mics for their space and texture they could add to a more sterile sounding mag. It's hard for me to imagine going multi-source and not including a mic option to blend with. I haven't learned enough about different models yet to mention one specifically. I would be fine with phantom powered since I expect to have a good preamp that supports it.

I know there are K&K Trinity and Anthem blend systems with two sources, but I'd rather have no batteries in the guitar, so I expect to use an external preamp for all sources. I'd also rather not drill another hole in the guitar so I think I'm limited to two sources coming out at a time. I would consider it if it solved every other issue.

Deciding acoustic amp or PA for this home use will take some more research for me.

Questions:
1. Do you know if SBTs have the same high end advantages of USTs but without the quack?
2. Would I have to drill another hole in order to get three sources out of the guitar?
3. I've only found 2 channel (like Grace Felix). Do you know what gear could blend three sources while still having parametric EQ?
4. Is it ridiculous to consider three sources?
5. If limited to two sources at a time, is there a way to have a three way switch in the soundhole that I could use to select which two sources to use for each song?
6. Any other considerations?

Thanks - Jeff
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  #2  
Old 10-15-2020, 03:58 PM
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James May James May is offline
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Don't do it!
Seriously then, go ahead if you must. That is, unless you are David Wilcox in disguise in which case you've already done this and so much more

I'll answer your questions the same way I'd answer if I didn't make and sell a pickup, and ToneDexter.

1. Do you know if SBTs have the same high end advantages of USTs but without the quack?

Some may come close to having the same amount of perceived highs. But mostly not. It depends on how stiff the bridge plate is. The K&K is almost never as bright sounding as a UST. And, most SBTs have feedback issues but you've said that doesn't matter. A lot of SBTs can sound tubby and muddy, regardless of whether they are into full blown feedback or not. Think of this as feedback propensity.

2. Would I have to drill another hole in order to get three sources out of the guitar? Probably, unless you use one of these special unicorn plugs:
TRSS plug markup.jpg
3. I've only found 2 channel (like Grace Felix). Do you know what gear could blend three sources while still having parametric EQ?

A small mixer, but finding one with even two high Z inputs may be difficult. The small ones seem to provide just one.

4. Is it ridiculous to consider three sources?

Kind of, yeah. But not because the quest for best sound is ridiculous, but rather because combining three sources probably won't get you any closer than two or one good one, IMO.

5. If limited to two sources at a time, is there a way to have a three way switch in the soundhole that I could use to select which two sources to use for each song?

That could be arranged by a competent engineer type. But it would get complicated as the (external) EQ processing of each PU would likely be different. So you'd ideally want to switch at the mixer/preamp.

6. Any other considerations?

Yes, I'm glad you asked. If you're going for natural sound, adding the mag PU won't help. If you're going for more definition and articulation from a SBT, then it could possibly help some, depending on what you blend it with. There is the phase thing to consider. The mag and an SBT don't have the same phase relationship to the strings. A mag will pickup more sideways motion, and the SBT more up/down motion. So they start out being 90 degrees out of phase, sort of. That said, there will usually be one polarity that gives more bass. That's the one you want, but it will be hard to predict in advance.

A lot of people seem to be happy with the popular dual source models these days. I would suggest auditioning one of them before you spend too much time and energy pursuing triple source. It's not for the faint of heart, IMO.

I do hope this helps.
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Old 10-15-2020, 04:51 PM
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I've tried as many as 4 sources. What I found was that it didn't really help, and the complexity was more than it was worth. You say you want to sound like Tommy - he uses just a simple dual source setup, pickup+internal mic. Other "modern" fingerstyle players these days seem to use a lot of effects, so I guess it depends on who you're really wanting to copy. Someone like Misko has both a lot of pickups and seemingly a huge array of effects. Same for many of the CandyRat crowd. So that sound requires a lot more than just a bunch of pickups.

James already gave you detailed answers, and I agree with everything he said. I've had the phase issues with mags+SBTs that he mentioned, and even went as far as have a phase corrector pedal in my path for a while. Did all that matter? I doubt it.

What James didn't mention is his ToneDexter pedal. I'd seriously consider just checking out ToneDexter, which can make one source sound really good. James also mentioned David Wilcox who is a well-known example of someone who uses lots of pickups. I've heard him live in a setting with other players taking turns. He got a decent sound, but not noticeably better than the others who had simpler setups.

My setup uses a pickup+internal mic, and it sounds pretty good to me. I could even record with it, and it'd sound passable, (tho not as good as a real mic). But I go for a natural sound, so it depends on the sound you really want.

If you must try more than 2 pickups, some people use small mixers. You'll probably need a DI for each source, since most mixers aren't designed for guitar pickups. There's also the EAE Stompmix, which is a 4-channel mixer, so that's worth checking out if you really want to go down this path.

There are also other ways to get more sources - K&K makes (or used to make) a 3-way system, mic+UST+SBT, with and onboard blender. I've tried it, didn't care for it, but maybe you'd like it. I used to use a Duncan MagMic with a K&K. The MagMic is mag + a mic, with it's own blend. So I could use it with a 2-channel preamp, and use the MagMic's onboard blend to control how much mic I used. It was a bit tricky to balance, but in the end, you twist knobs till you like what you hear.
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Old 10-15-2020, 05:33 PM
varmonter varmonter is offline
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It's fun to fool around with this stuff.
If you want to go ahead.
But you've gained some good
experiential advice here from some
folks who know. ..It may save you some time.
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Old 10-16-2020, 04:38 AM
Dirk_Z Dirk_Z is offline
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1. SBTs sound more natural but lack a bit of highend information. No quack so far.

2. Yes propably

3. Iīm using a Bose T1 Tonematch mixer to blend three sources

4. No its not :-) 4 or more would be

5. see 3

6. I based my setup on modern fingerstyle players. Most tend to use a mix of SBT , MIC and MAGNETIC

Most of my sound comes from my SBT (K&K pure mini). In order to get some more highs I blend in the microphone. The magnetic pickup is used for songs with effects like distortion or which use the octavepedal.
Fishman rare earth blend (Microphone and Magnetic pickup).


A short example of the DI sound recorded.

1. Fingerstyle (SBT and MIC)
2. Strumming with fingers (SBT and MIC)
3. Effects (all sources, mainly Magnetic)

http://www.polyphon-recording.de/Medley.mp3

Sorry for the bad playing :-)

Dirk
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Old 10-17-2020, 08:41 PM
Jefe314159 Jefe314159 is offline
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This is great information and I see even more options than before.

For 2+ channel robust preamps with EQ I see:
1. Sunnaudio MS-2
2. Radial pz-pro (anyone used this yet?)
3. Bose T1 Tonematch
4. EAE Stompmix x4
5. Grace Felix

I see that those in the know are not won over by the 3+ pickups idea. I think most likely I would want to use 2 at a time, with the ability to experiment. Part of the problem is that I don't have a way to try out a lot of good pickups to find what I like best. Are the established ways to switch between 3+ pickup sources outside of the guitar? Is the TRRS cable and jack on the guitar and an easy to find item?

I'm trying to keep it to one unit for EQ/Preamp/Blend but that might not be practical if 3 sources are involved. I suppose just not plugging in one of the 3 wires would be simplest.

The Tonedexter is certainly on my radar after I get the rest of the equipment to use it. Kudos for James resisting the hard plug. The product seems to speak for itself. I know this stage will be fairly costly so it will probably be stage 2.

Thanks for the replies and sharing your experiences.
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Old 10-17-2020, 10:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jefe314159 View Post
Is the TRRS cable and jack on the guitar and an easy to find item?
I have never found a TRRS jack/plug for guitar, tho James had a picture of one, so maybe he can tell us where that came from. Most people who go beyond 2 pickups drill multiple end-pins. There are A/B switchers you can use if what you want to do is run 2 pickups out of your guitar and be able to swap between them. If you have multiple jacks, of course, you can just choose which one to plug into.

Quote:
The Tonedexter is certainly on my radar after I get the rest of the equipment to use it. Kudos for James resisting the hard plug. The product seems to speak for itself. I know this stage will be fairly costly so it will probably be stage 2.
I'd plan out your system before hand - that's part of the challenge. There is no 3-pickup system out there where everything just plays together. You'll be architecting the thing yourself, and there are all kinds of pitfalls, from phase interactions between pickups, to wiring/powering issues, blending, level differences between pickups, and so on. The idea of just adding something later, especially something as game-changing as ToneDexter may be harder than you think. Not impossible of course, but you may very well find yourself going down a path, and then try to add something, and find yourself thinking "if only I'd have known before-hand...." So I'd approach this by investigating options before committing (like drilling multiple holes in the guitar). ToneDexter's an example, if you don't know what that will do for your sound, you won't know if it's a relatively small add-on for later, or if it should be a core component to your sound that you should plan around.

The people I've seen use multiple sources most successfully have been those who had a reason for each pickup. For example, Preston Reed used to have sensors in each of the locations where he did percussive stuff, so he had his bass drum pickup and his snare pickup, etc. People like Steven King had a mag pickup turned sideways so it only picked up the bass strings, which he ran into an octave divider so he had a "bass" playing along. I'm not sure what Misko's setup is, but he has one video where he has a strong echo on the treble strings, while the bass strings seem to be totally dry. Not sure how he achieves that (and it may be a studio trick), but that seems useful.

But just throwing more pickups in because it seems like more will be better is a bit unpredictable. More isn't always better. If what you are looking for is versatility, that's a different issue. I have some guitars whose pickups are connected with a mini plug to the end-pin jack. That way, if for example I need to play a louder gig, I can unplug the pickup I normally use and plug in a mag soundhole pickup easily. You could also just do that with multiple end-pin jacks.
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Old 10-17-2020, 11:26 PM
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Why not have a dual source system and an external mic

K&K use to have a 3 source system. It had a SBT, internal mic, and UST. All went through a 3 channel preamp that had 3 band EQ for each channel. I had it in a guitar and it was an amazing sounding set up with loads of flexibility. Sold the guitar and regret not taking the pick up out.

They don’t make it any more. These days to have a comparable set it would require an added hole in the guitar for another jack as well as another preamp. If I was (still) a full time travailing player I would consider it.
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Old 10-18-2020, 06:37 AM
Methos1979 Methos1979 is offline
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I definitely think that three sources is overkill for you since by your own admission it's just for you playing to yourself. That said, it's always fun to play around with this type of thing but beware it can be deep hole of time and money you're wading into!

Since you say you like magnetic pickups and want to go with passive I recommend the K&K Double Helix Solo combined with a K&K Pure Mini. They are made to work together and it will be much easier to mix two signals than three. Plus the DHS gives you a nice tone switch on the mag pup that is excellent for switching between strumming and fingerstyle.

I was looking for a passive mag sound hole pup for my Martin D-1 custom dread and tried several including the Baggs M80, Schertler AG6 with S-Mic, and Dimarzio Black Angel before trying the Double Helix Solo and the DHS won hands down. I have not gone the route of adding the K&K Pure mini since for live playing/gigging I already use Cole Clark guitars which have built-in three way systems that are excellent for amplified playing.

Here's a nice demo from K&K for their Double Helix Solo and Pure Mini combo:

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Old 10-18-2020, 06:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Methos1979 View Post
I definitely think that three sources is overkill for you since by your own admission it's just for you playing to yourself. That said, it's always fun to play around with this type of thing but beware it can be deep hole of time and money you're wading into!

Since you say you like magnetic pickups and want to go with passive I recommend the K&K Double Helix Solo combined with a K&K Pure Mini. They are made to work together and it will be much easier to mix two signals than three. Plus the DHS gives you a nice tone switch on the mag pup that is excellent for switching between strumming and fingerstyle.

I was looking for a passive mag sound hole pup for my Martin D-1 custom dread and tried several including the Baggs M80, Schertler AG6 with S-Mic, and Dimarzio Black Angel before trying the Double Helix Solo and the DHS won hands down. I have not gone the route of adding the K&K Pure mini since for live playing/gigging I already use Cole Clark guitars which have built-in three way systems that are excellent for amplified playing.

Here's a nice demo from K&K for their Double Helix Solo and Pure Mini combo:


How about the helix combined with the dual source K&k ...mini and mic. How would you make all three work together. Is it possible to have a stereo out, where the mini and mic go through one side (assuming it uses the onboard pre mixed to mono) and the helix on the other side?
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Old 10-18-2020, 07:10 AM
Methos1979 Methos1979 is offline
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How about the helix combined with the dual source K&k ...mini and mic. How would you make all three work together. Is it possible to have a stereo out, where the mini and mic go through one side (assuming it uses the onboard pre mixed to mono) and the helix on the other side?
No idea. I imagine it could be done but I'd never attempt it! I imagine you would either need to drill out a second output hole or use some sort of three-way output jack. But it's just too much work for me. I'm too lazy. I haven't even bothered to add the Pure Mini to my DHS!

When I want three-way pickup systems I just grab one of my two Cole Clark guitars. They've done all the work for me already and I love the onboard pre-amp, EQ and blend options. Plus there are built-in crossovers so each type of pickup focuses on a different frequency band.

Doug Young would be the guy to ask that question. He's the king of trying all these things out and even has a webpage dedicated to his efforts and results!
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Old 10-19-2020, 05:29 PM
Jefe314159 Jefe314159 is offline
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I think what Doug said about having a specific reason for each pickup would be key. If I were to do 3 it would be for versatility and specificity. The problem is that I can't just experiment with everything and THEN buy. I'm making my best attempt to cover my options. I expect that I will like each potential pickup for its own reasons and am hoping to have a powerful enough eq to zero in on their best frequency ranges(to my ears) and lessening the others, probably to a large degree.

I admire how Pierre Bensusan and Tommy Emmanuel have such different voices going on in the bass and treble ranges. Obviously a lot of this is technique, but I hoped that emphasizing particular bands per pickup could also create a different texture and help each stand out. These are the kinds of things that I'd like to experiment with.

At some point, I will have to take a shot and buy gear and make some mistakes to fully understand the difficulties. That's one reason I'm stopping at drilling a second hole, so it's not permanent. If I could easily switch between the 3 combinations of pickups or have 3 come out one jack, it would be easier to move on the to next step.
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Old 10-19-2020, 06:41 PM
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Quote:
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I have never found a TRRS jack/plug for guitar, tho James had a picture of one, so maybe he can tell us where that came from.
...
That photo is a fake, it's been photoshopped. Not to fool people but rather to demonstrate what I mean when talking to plug and jack vendors. As far as I know, this doesn't yet exist. (Lest you wonder, my reason for pursuing a TRRS plug is not about triple source pickups. I'm interested in getting more info in and out of a guitar for other reasons.)
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Old 10-19-2020, 08:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jefe314159 View Post

I admire how Pierre Bensusan and Tommy Emmanuel have such different voices going on in the bass and treble ranges. Obviously a lot of this is technique, but I hoped that emphasizing particular bands per pickup could also create a different texture and help each stand out. These are the kinds of things that I'd like to experiment with.

Keep in mind that neither Pierre or Tommy are doing this with electronics. They sound like that in person, acoustically. Tommy uses a 2-source system, pretty normal, pickup+internal mic. Pierre has used a lot of pickups, but all of them that I know of are single source. He does sometimes have a real mic in front of him at the same time.

There are pickups that can let you play with string balance and/or EQ differently. The full Trance system has the bottom half and top half of the strings available separately. Shadow has a pickup that lets you split out strings in different combos. You could split a Dazzo or even K&K system into multiple outputs and EQ/balance them individually. But this isn't how Tommy and Pierre get their sound.
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Old 10-20-2020, 01:49 AM
Nick84 Nick84 is offline
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Iím using the rare earth blend with K&K pure mini. Iíve only used it live twice but so far so good!
Iíve just scored an unbelievable deal on a used Orange valve preamp which Iím hoping will arrive for my gigs this weekend.

I wanted to try a Radial PZ-PRO but they donít seem to have any in stock anywhere in the UK at the moment : (
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